Immigrant families detained in coming Trump crackdown could be held in Berks County facility
Mexico–United States barrier at the border of Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, USA. The crosses represent migrants who died in the crossing attempt. Some identified, some not. Surveillance tower in the background. WikiMedia Commons Image by Tomascastelazo.
(*This story has been updated to clarify an observation made by U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., on where detained immigrants might be housed as a result of this weekend’s expected ICE raids nationwide)
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is reportedly gearing up to arrest thousands of undocumented immigrants across the country, some of whom could wind up in a Pennsylvania detention center.
The New York Times reported Thursday that raids are expected to begin on Sunday after they were postponed last month by the administration. Family members who are arrested together will be housed — when possible — in Pennsylvania and Texas, the Times reported.
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., told the Capital-Star Thursday that he hadn’t been briefed on the administration’s plans, but he *said it’s possible that the Berks Family Residential Center — a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Leesport , Pa., near Reading, — could be where the administration plans to detain immigrant families.
Toomey has toured that facility, he said. “It’s actually quite a nice and comfortable environment,” he said, adding that “there’s not much security there.”
The facility, about 65 miles northwest of Philadelphia, is a former senior living center that was converted to house immigrants in 2001, WHYY reported in April. In March, ICE officials said Berks had nine residents in the 96-bed facility.
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Asked on Thursday whether that center will be used to detain those arrested in the upcoming raids, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson declined to offer details, citing “law-enforcement sensitivities and the safety and security of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel.”
The spokesperson told the Capital-Star, “As always, ICE prioritizes the arrest and removal of unlawfully present aliens who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security.”
Acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director Ken Cuccinelli said Wednesday that the raids are “absolutely going to happen,” although he wouldn’t specify a timeline, CNN reported.
Toomey supports legislation that seeks to end “sanctuary city” policies, which forbid local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. Trump frequently rails against sanctuary city policies; he has threatened that his administration might release undocumented immigrants into those cities.
Toomey notably broke with Trump, however, on the president’s declaration of an emergency on the southern U.S. border in order to obtain security funding against the will of Congress. “I share the president’s frustration and goal of securing the border, but I have serious concerns about his national emergency declaration,” the senator wrote in a March op-ed.
Asked about the administration’s strategy to target immigrants in major U.S. cities, Toomey appeared supportive of the plans.
“It’s certainly not a comprehensive thing, but if the people generally around the world believe that when the get in the United States there are no consequences and they can stay indefinitely, then this problem will never go away,” he said.
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